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Ten reasons why last year didn't suck: another Best Music of 2011 list

Posted by Kells, January 1, 2012 12:00pm | Post a Comment
2011, what can I say? A great year for music if not for anything else. So without further ado, I'm pleased to present my very own "Best of 2011" list, because listing is fun (unless, of course, you're on a ship in danger of capsizing). Let's sail on shall we, beginning with the top of the best, old Mr. Natural himself:


Little Wings

Black Grass
Rad

This apple made a monumental leap from the tree in that it was many years in the making. It seemed that Kyle Field, the man behind the Little Wings mystique, had gone on hiatus only to return on his own terms with this juicy bramble of soft melodies, surf-salted served with a side of Lil Wayne-influenced folk-rock jammage. Field spins wooly yarns that sound like a conversation gone unspoken in the moment regaining shape in memory, voiced to oneself longingly. It's introspective almost to a fault, but the overall sound and vibe offers enough volume and warming to light even the darkest reaches of your keep and stay the ghosts of Black Grass' pasts at bay. Without a doubt the best new record and best instore performance of the year.

Little Wings - "Black Grass"



The Sandwitches
Mrs. Jones Cookies
Empty Cellar

If there is one other record that, like the above, remains forever locked in my can't live without it file, it's this little wonder from local SF girl group The Sandwitches. Sounding simultaneously like girls-in-the-garage "golden oldies" and new rock Americana aging backwards in filigree, these ladies cast a lasting spell the likes of which their lo-fi, sun-bleached reverb-drenched contemporaries cannot compete with. Their harmonies are a dream, their melodies artful and unpredictable, often culminating in surprise endings and the lyrics are the stuff "my gournal" dreams are made of.

The Sandwitches - "Lightfoot"




Various Artists
Delta Swamp Rock
Soul Jazz

You gotta hand it to Soul Jazz, they do compilations so right they ought to write the book on how it's done. None of the music is new on this here two-disc collection of "sounds from the South: at the crossroads of rock, country and soul" but it is essential in that as it has been proven in several Amoeba households to make meal preparation and completion more enjoyable as well as addig to the overall success of dinner party enjoyment. I'd include more than one taste of this damn good comp if I could, but Barefoot Jerry deserves the spotlight. Best comp of the year!
Barefoot Jerry - "Smokies"




Blaze Foley
Clay Pigeons
Secret Seven

Emotionally speaking, this vinyl-only, career spanning collection of studio, home and intimate live recordings made between 1976 - 1988 is the exhumed backwoods treasure release of the year in my opinion. From the lauded likes of Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams and Merle Haggard it seems that Blaze Foley's honeyed voice, though largely unheard far and wide, has resonated within the hearts of all who have been lucky enough to have known his music. Thanks to the good folks at Secret Seven there's a little more country to love - I can't hear "Clay Pigeons" or "If I Could Only Fly" without shivering in my skin. Breathtaking!
Blaze Foley - "Clay Pigeons"





Boris
New Album
Daymare

For a band that always earns a lot of attention for their innovative and experimental heavy rock forays, this album, along with the two others they released this year (in the same week!), received mixed reviews due to a shift in sonic leaning toward a more high-impact, electro J-pop aesthetic. While some might be quick to call it pussy, there is no question that Boris maintain a technical stranglehold on their medium as they splash out in new directions. This record is a definite slow-growing ember burning up a myriad of genres.

Boris - "Spoon"




Sun Araw
Ancient Romans
Sun Ark/Drag City

Ever had the urge to take a stroll through a Casio forest, plodding lazily alongside a meandering data stream? Sun Araw's imagineer of epic soundscape mit cosmic dub vibeage Cameron Stallones conjures up this year's, which is to say last year's, most gravity bong worthy heavy hitter, rivaled only by Peaking Light's 936 in my opinion. Still, at the rate this guy keeps slicing off chunks of shaman-level soundtracking for his listener's inner space explorations, administering mind-altaring substances aurally will be trending at an all time high, man.

Sun Araw - Ancient Romans




Little Roy
Battle For Seattle
Ark

And you thought the award for novelty album of the year sould have gone to Loutallica's Lulu - shame on you!

I cannot explain exactly why but this album of reggae covers of Nirvana's patent grunge sounds just fucking works. Hear me now and believe me later when you check it out below.




Little Roy - "Sliver" / "Dive"




Grace Sings Sludge
Last Year's Friend
Secret Seven

From one of the minds that conjures magic as the Sandwitches comes this cassette only, limited release offered by Secret Seven - a collection of home recordings and folksy warblings that ramble freely within their sonic confines like so many wild mares briefly harnessed within innocent fences. The layers Grace achieves on each track, be it quiet chiming, a little harmonica or spectral harmonies, add a gossamer of mystery and are pleasure to peek through as each song unfurls its fabric, some of which are apparently cover tunes. Here's hoping for a reissue.

Grace Sings Sludge - "Last Year's Friend"




Various Artists
West Indies Funk
Vols. 1- 3
Trans Air

The only other compilation to really get my steel drum fetish all hot and bothered this year was in fact a series of three comps put out by Trans Air sailing under the banner West Indies Funk.
Not only are all three of these little gems packed front to back with blazing soul and funk cover jams all rummed-up and sun-soaked but they also feature some deep cuts ripe for a right good airing on your hi-fi. Add to that the bonus Disc 'O' Lypso comp and you can bet your ass you've got a sweaty boogie party goin' on!


The East Side Symphony - "Hot Pants Road"




Veronica Falls
Veronica Falls
Slumberland

I fell pretty hard for this band while compiling material for a Halloween mixtape I make every year for a dear friend of mine - it was the single "Found Love in a Graveyard" that did it. They've got a certain sound that's all kinds of been heard before but in their case "heard it" never sounded so good. In short, they make bucking-the-trend seem so very passé. Plus, they manage to keep their broken-hearted cemetery pop jangly with just enough tambourine behind the barely there girl/boy vocal harmonies that make the whole affair, super 8 video and all, worthwhile.

Veronica Falls - "Found Love in a Graveyard"

Relevant Tags

Boris (12), Delta Swamp Rock (1), Soul Jazz (5), Little Wings (15), The Sandwitches (11), Best Of 2011 (17), Veronica Falls (9), Blaze Foley (4), Grace Sings Sludge (5), Little Roy (1)